Ship that Carried Ham Radio on Arctic Expeditions Undergoing Restoration
The ARRL Letter
January 10, 2019
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Historic Schooner that Carried Ham Radio on Arctic Expeditions Undergoing Additional Restoration:
The nearly century-old schooner Bowdoin, built in 1921 and relaunched
nearly 3 years ago, after some extensive renovation and refitting, is
once again in dry dock to restore its hull. During explorer Donald B.
MacMillan's Arctic Expedition of 1923 and on the
MacMillan-McDonald-Byrd Expedition of 1925, the sailing vessel relied
on Amateur Radio operators for communication. Built in East Boothbay,
Maine, the Bowdoin has made more than two dozen visits to the Arctic
under MacMillan's command. It was named after MacMillan's alma mater,
Bowdoin College, and has become the official vessel of the state of
Maine, a national historic landmark, and the flagship
http://mainemaritime.edu/waterfront/schooner-bowdoin/ of the Maine
Maritime Academy (MMA) Vessel Operations and Technology Program. Work
on the vessel is currently under way at Boothbay Harbor.
At Wiscasset, Maine, with the schooner Bowdoin, ARRL sponsors check out
the receiver furnished by Zenith for the 1923 Arctic Expedition. From
left to right: F.H. Schnell, 1MO, Traffic Manager; K.B. Warner, 9JT,
Secretary-Manager, and Hiram Percy Maxim, 1AW, ARRL President.
"Our goal is to maintain the boat to the highest standard, to go
above and beyond in order to preserve this living piece of history,"
MMA Marine Operations Manager Dana Willis said in a December media
One such preservation update has been supplementing Bowdoin's sails
with a diesel engine.
In 1923, MacMillan had turned to ARRL for help in outfitting his
expedition with better wireless gear, and, as Michael Marinaro, WN1M,
explained in his June 2014 QST article, "Polar Exploration
that help "was enthusiastically provided." ARRL Co-Founder Hiram Percy
Maxim and the ARRL Board agreed to furnish support and recruited Donald
H. Mix, 1TS, of Bristol, Connecticut, to serve as the shipboard
operator. Board member M.B. West custom-designed the equipment, which
was built by radio amateurs at his firm, Zenith Electronics. The
transmitter operated on medium-wave frequencies with a power of 100 W
and used the call sign WNP -- for "Wireless North Pole.
As Marinaro explained in his article, "WNP transmitted weekly
500-word press releases and listings of stations worked and heard. Once
received by amateur stations, these reports were delivered to local
affiliated newspapers of the North American Newspaper Alliance; from
there, they were distributed syndicate-wide by telegraph."
In 1925, the Bowdoin headed to Greenland. "The outstanding
accomplishment of the expedition was in the sphere of radio," Marinaro
wrote. "Utilizing shortwaves, the expedition was in consistent contact
with the outside world throughout the journey, to the delight of the
amateurs who were able to work them. The phenomenal success proved to
the Navy that shortwaves were definitely superior to the long and
ultra-long waves on which the fleets had been relying."
The Bowdoin is expected to be seaworthy again for the summer sailing
season, when it will serve once again in MMA sail training courses. --
Thanks to Maine Maritime Academy
The ARRL Letter
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